MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The world held its breath on Sunday afternoon when a semi-truck drove into a crowd of thousands of protesters on Interstate 35W, speaking out against the death of George Floyd.
Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt or died when that semi driver drove into the protest.
“When you didn’t see bodies under the truck, it was possibly, frankly a miracle, cause the driver was doing 70 mph or in that range,” Gov. Tim Walz said. “I think someone did something really stupid, got in a dangerous situation and people on the highway, feels incredibly lucky that he did not kill someone and is really lucky that Minnesotans showed their better angels and he did not get killed.”
A 35-year-old truck driver from Otsego is in jail this morning after the incident. He’s identified as Bogdan Vechirko. Authorities say he got onto the bridge as they were closing the interstate down around 5:45 p.m. MnDOT had planned to close highways at 8 p.m. last night, but then moved up that closing time to 5 p.m.
As of now, the driver faces possible assault charges, but the driver may have been confused about the time the highways were closing.
On Monday morning, Department of Public Safety commissioner John Harrington says all preliminary investigation indicates that what at first appeared to be a potentially deliberate event may have instead been merely accidental, and “possibly a miracle” that no one was seriously injured.
“Even with hitting the breaks and dry pavement, we got lucky or there was something miraculous happening there,” Harrington said.
Harrington added that, when it became clear the size of the group that was going to be on the I-35W Bridge, they put in a request to MnDOT to push up the start time of the road closures.
Harrington: Still need more detals, but tanker truck driver does not appear to have been targeting protesters.
— Patrick Kessler (@PatKessler) June 1, 2020
Harrington said that, according to the early investigation, the truck was already on the freeway when it shut down, and the fuel tank was empty. It does appear the driver was going about 70 before applying the brakes.
Gov. Tim Walz said that the driver has told investigators he is grateful no one was hurt, and that the driver was lucky Minnesotans “showed their better angels” on that bridge Sunday.
Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen said that, as the truck approached the bridge, one soldier from the National Guard reportedly fired three rounds from a rifle. An investigation into that part of the incident is also ongoing.
NEW: John Harrington says the semi truck driver didn’t cross barricades, was on the highway before it was sealed, he was speeding, he saw the crowd, “and he panicked. And he kept barreling forward.” GOVERNOR: “someone did something incredibly stupid, and he got lucky.”
— Jason DeRusha (@DeRushaJ) June 1, 2020
WCCO has learned the driver was returning from making a run from the Lyn 36 refuel station on Lyndale.
“That gentleman was the only gentleman in his whole company who wanted to deliver gas to a black-owned station that he delivers to 14 times a week, so if he was so-called racist like they said it was, I don’t think he’d be delivering to us,” Lonnie McQuirter said. “He was feeding his family, that’s what he was part of. Just like what we’re doing, trying to feed our family.”
Investigators say the investigation is still open to see if he was part of something intentional.